An old scheme to separate elderly grandparents from their money is again rearing its head. The so-called "grandparent scam," in which a con artist pretending to be a victim's grandchild claims to be hospitalized or imprisoned and in need of emergency cash. The anxious grandparent rushes to wire money to the impostor or loads it onto a prepaid card and then hands over the personal identification number.
It's an old con that's seeing a resurgence nationwide. Instances of such impostor scams doubled from 2009 to 2013, costing Americans more than $73 million annually, according to the Federal Trade Commission, and it's called the Grandparent Scam also called the Granny Scam.
Here is how it works, a grandparent receives a phone call from someone claiming to be their grandson or granddaughter, and says they are in jail and need money to get out of jail. The usual amount is between $1,500.00 and $2,500.00.
A friend of mine, Elizabeth (not her real name) called me today and said that their grand daughter was in California on an unexpected trip to attend a funeral. They get a call allegedly from a public defenders office, explaining that their grand daughter was arrested for drug possession and they need $2,000.00 for bail. They need it right away because the court is closing for the day and their grand daughter will have to spend the night in jail. They were about to run out the door to the bank and I told them, wait a minute, lets call your grand daughter and see if that was really her or a scam. Sure enough, their grand daughter was home and not in jail.
The advent of social media sites has enabled such scammers to proliferate by having access to information about families, including photographs, personal bios, and other family information including identifying the grand parents, and even being able to know if a grand child is traveling and where they are traveling.
This scam is so effective the Federal Bureau of Investigation has a warning on their web page. It said to keep from becoming a victim you should resist pressure to act quickly and that you should try to make contact with your family member before you send any money - because once you wire that cash, you can't get it back.
Victims are vulnerable because someone is playing on their emotions and doing it with a sense of urgency. Elderly family members can be an easy target if they're being misled to believe that someone they care about is in trouble, the last thing they're thinking about is the money aspect of it. Scammers try to take advantage of someone whose hearing or memory or decision-making may not be the sharpest. Scamers target seniors because they're most likely to have "nest eggs," own their homes and have excellent credit.
Here are some tips to prevent becoming victimized:
• Ask the caller a personal question only you and that family member would know, or ask about something that happened in the past or for a nickname.
• Ask for details. The caller makes it seem urgent but if someone is sitting in jail somewhere, chances are they're not going anywhere for a while.
• Take the time to verify the information, ask for a call-back number and call the parent to verify the predicament.
• If they ask you to send money via wire transfer it's a red flag -- wire transfers are untraceable.
Most importantly, take time to do a little checking before you run to the bank. Call your grand child or their parents and see if they are home, or if they really are in trouble. Don’t rely on a call from someone demanding that you send money immediately.
If you get a call that doesn't sit right with you, call the local police department. Also, if you start asking questions, that's when the (scammer) starts feeling uncomfortable. If it seems like something's not right, it's OK to hang up the phone.
For more information or a free consultation on your legal issue contact Scott and Fenderson PLLC, your injury law and family law attorneys, at 727-321-0099. http://www.scottandfenderson.com